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Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 6th Annual International Conference on West-East Reciprocal Learning in Education held at the University of Windsor. It was a spectacular event!
Reflecting on the event, co-director Dr. Shijing Xu, said “one tree does not make a forest.” By this she meant that it takes many partners to achieve success. And what a success it has been.
Statistics tell us that 233 students from Southwest University in Chongqing, China and 100 students from the University of Windsor have participated in the joint Reciprocal Learning Program that sees teacher candidates travel to China or Canada to experience the way teaching is done in another country, and to take in a little culture.
I can remember when it all started 10 years ago. Drs. Xu and Connelly were so hopeful. They believed that a peaceful world could be created by getting to know each other better.
The alumni couldn’t agree more. David Potocek said it was “stepping out of our comfort zone.” Taylor Paré agreed by saying we were “voices heard around the world” and “no matter where in the world you find yourself, its all about getting a child to smile at you.”
Last week we remembered. And now it is time to ensure that more teacher candidates in China and Canada benefit from this outstanding program. Let’s continue planting more trees!
This week I, along with Windsor colleagues (Dr. Ken Montgomery, Dean, Faculty of Education; Ryan Flannagan, Associate Vice-President, Student Experience), welcomed graduate students and faculty to the University of Windsor from Western Michigan University’s Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership program during their study abroad trip through Ontario. As a dual citizen (both US and Canadian), it was my pleasure to share a bit about Canadian higher education.
As Canadians often do, we opened our dialogue on the state of the weather, which was 9 degrees Celsius and with a forecast of light snow mixed with rain. Keep in mind this was April 10th! We then talked about geography. Some were surprised that they had traveled south as they came into Canada and that Windsor is the southern most part of Canada, with a good portion of the US north of us.
I was, of course, glad to see some adventurous students try poutine in our cafeteria, a made-for-students delicacy composed of fresh-cut french-fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. They loved it!
The visiting students and faculty were very interested in the similarities and differences between the educational systems and the challenges and opportunities facing the Canadian and Ontario higher education systems. This, of course, led to some discussion of the political system in Canada since higher education is mostly funded and controlled by the provinces.
Our conversation touched on many topics, but two were of particular interest: international education and student mental health.
On international education, we discussed the growing international student population on Canadian campuses, including the University of Windsor, and the stalled and declining enrolment of international students at many American colleges and universities.
Mental health for both American and Canadian institutions is a growing concern. Some were surprised to learn that mental health support at our campus is greater than it is in the community.
We then took a short tour of our student services, snapped a picture, and wished them well as they travelld to other Ontario colleges and universities.
My guess is they will head home with a richer understanding of Canadian higher education and a sense of some of the things we can do together in the years to come.